Breaking News in the Industry: February 5, 2018

Fulton County pays $400K settlement to shoplifting suspect after crash

Fulton County, Georgia paid a shoplifting suspect injured in a crash more than $400,000 in a lawsuit settled last month, Channel 2 Action News reported Thursday. A Fulton County police officer in July 2014 chased a stolen car with William Smith handcuffed and unbuckled in the backseat. Smith, who was in custody on a shoplifting charge, slammed his head into the seat and injured his back when the car crashed on Old National Highway, the news station reported. Smith spent two weeks in the hospital with a cervical spine injury. “He put my life in jeopardy,” Smith told Channel 2. “He put his own life in jeopardy, basically like he didn’t care.” The county argued the driver of the stolen car t-boned the officer as he exited a parking lot. But the judge in the case said the county’s refusal to turn over basic evidence such as the damaged patrol car was “appalling.” After discovering more and more evidence of the county’s wrongdoing, the county settled for $414,000. Smith says he will always have pain in his neck and back, but hopes the incident is a wake-up call to police. The suspect in the stolen car was never caught and the case was listed as a hit and run. [Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution]

“Operation Team Player” nets over $15 million in fake sports merchandise

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) representatives announced Feb. 1 that enforcement actions led by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection resulted in the seizure of over 171,926 counterfeit sports and entertainment-related items worth an estimated $15.69 million, and joint investigative efforts led to 65 arrests with 24 convictions. The results from Operation Team Player, a year-round effort developed by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) to crackdown on the illegal importation of counterfeit sports apparel and entertainment merchandise, were revealed at a press conference hosted by the NFL with participation from ICE. “Intellectual property theft is a serious crime, and black-market organizations descend on the Super Bowl and other major sporting events to sell counterfeit goods and substandard merchandise to unsuspecting consumers,” said ICE Deputy Director Thomas D. Homan. “ICE agents are committed to investigating the trafficking of counterfeit goods that wreak havoc on local economies, threaten the health and safety of the American public and fund criminal organizations engaged in other illegal activities.” Special agents from HSI teamed with industry, CBP, FBI and other partner agencies to identify flea markets, retail outlets and street vendors selling counterfeit goods during the week leading up to Super Bowl LII. They seized fake jerseys, hats, cell-phone accessories and thousands of other bogus items prepared to be sold to unsuspecting consumers. “Collaborative efforts like Operation Team Player put the health and safety of the American people and the vitality of our economy first,” said Acting CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan. “CBP is proud to partner with ICE, the IPR Center and local authorities to ensure businesses and consumers are protected from intellectual property thieves.” As one of the U.S. government’s key weapons in the fight against criminal counterfeiting and piracy, the IPR Center is not only committed to closely coordinating with its 23 member agencies, but also collaborating with industry and anti-counterfeiting associations to develop initiatives, coordinate enforcement actions and conduct investigations related to intellectual property theft.  [Source: Fairfax County Times]

Man staying at Walt Disney World resort accused of credit card fraud operation

Walt Disney World loss prevention helped the Secret Service arrest a man suspected in a credit card fraud operation who was staying in a resort on property, according to a criminal complaint. Disney loss prevention associates saw a number of transactions on a card that had been used to check into a room at the Art of Animation resort and flagged them.  A guest had checked in for a two-week stay, and when LP noticed the excessive purchases made on the card in the Disney Spring’s area—they went to the room to check it out.  According to the Secret Service, the Disney LP team went to the room in the “Cars” area of the resort, entering the room when no one answered.  Inside, Disney security found credit cards throughout the room, which prompted them to call the Secret Service.

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Agents found around $5,000 in fraudulent purchases had been made on the one card used to check in to the room.  Four men from Brazil showed up at the room while investigators were still there.  Agents saw a card encoder along with dozens of cards inside the luggage of a guest named Fabio Valdarnini. According to the Secret Service, the Disney security team went to the room in the “Cars” area of the resort, entering the room when no one answered.  Inside, Disney loss prevention found credit cards throughout the room, which prompted them to call the Secret Service.  Agents found around $5,000 in fraudulent purchases had been made on the one card used to check in to the room.  Four men from Brazil showed up at the room while investigators were still there. Agents saw a card encoder along with dozens of cards inside the luggage of a guest named Fabio Valdarnini.  [Source: WFTV9 News]

Employee’s $30K theft sends her to jail

A Deerfield, Ohio, woman has been sentenced to 90 days in the Portage County jail and four years probation for stealing more than $30,000 worth of groceries from a Ravenna store. In addition to owing her former employer a total of $30,400 to be paid within the next 30 months, 44-year-old Judith L. White is banned from all Giant Eagle stores in Portage County for the next five years, Portage County Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman ruled Monday.  White was granted work release privileges, and was ordered to report to the jail at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, following the end of her work shift, according to court records. She also must get a mental health evaluation, continue counseling and keep a full-time job throughout probation, Pittman ruled. Fines and court costs also totaled more than $601. White pleaded guilty in November to grand theft, a fourth-degree felony, following a Ravenna Police Department investigation into allegations she stole more than $30,000 worth of groceries while working at the Giant Eagle store at 909 E. Main St. between November 2015 and September 2016.  Giant Eagle loss prevention investigators used surveillance video and store records to build a case, which they turned over to Ravenna police for further investigation. Ravenna detectives determined the thefts took place on multiple occasions over nearly a year and turned their findings over to the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office, Capt. David Rarrick said.  In court filings, White’s attorney said her behavior was the result of substance abuse issues. [Source: Record-Courier]

Fire cost Fred Meyer millions; Police say it was for heroin

The fire that shuttered the Richland, Washington, Fred Meyer for almost three days and caused millions worth of damage to the store and merchandise allegedly was started to cover up the theft of a PlayStation. Daniel R. Wright was going to trade the video game console with Eliseo J. Garcia for heroin, court documents show. But just 30 minutes after setting fire to a store display with yarn, Wright had Garcia drive him to the Benton County jail. It didn’t take long for jail officials to confirm for Richland police that the man in the Fred Meyer surveillance video was the same man who had just checked into the Kennewick facility, documents said. Wright denied being at Fred Meyer at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26. However, his alibi — his wife — told investigators she had not seen her husband since 8 p.m. She also identified him in the store video, court documents said. Garcia kept the stolen PlayStation, documents said. It is valued at $399. He denied knowing anything about the arson, claiming that he met up with Wright in the store parking lot.Surveillance footage allegedly showed Garcia in the store before the fire.  [Source: Tri-City Herald]

Employee accused of stealing more than $100,000 from business

A former employee of Mount Zion Self-Storage in Illinois has been arrested on charges she stole more than $100,000 from the business. Tamme R. King, 56, was arrested Wednesday on a preliminary charge of theft over $10,000 after an investigation revealed five years of missing deposits from the business and questionable deposits into King’s account. Mount Zion police officers were called to the business on Jan. 5, where the owner told officers that King, an employee from June 2011 through December 2017, had stolen more than $100,000, according to a police affidavit. King was responsible for accepting payments from customers, depositing payments into the business bank account and monthly bank statement reconciliation, police said

The business owner told officers he trusted King until mid-November, when King insisted that she would handle depositing a customer’s monthly house rental payment despite past statements that she did not like keeping lots of cash at the business. The owner later learned that the cash deposit was never made, and in fact that no cash was deposited into his account for several years.  The total loss was recorded was $117,469.42, according to the affidavit. That number came from the total cash collected at the business between 2012 and 2017, minus the amount deposited into the business’ account or repaid by King through personal check.  King, along with her attorney, went to the Mount Zion Police Department on Wednesday. She told officers she did not want to make any statement. The business owner declined comment Thursday. King is currently out of jail on $20,000 bond. [Source: Herald & Review]

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